Mike Huckabee became governor on July 15, 1996 following the resignation of Governor Jim Guy Tucker. He later became Arkansas' 44th elected governor after winning the November 1998 election with the highest percentage of the vote ever received by a Republican gubernatorial nominee in Arkansas. Governor Huckabee was elected to another four-year term in November 2002 and is currently recognized as the nation's second longest serving governor.
The years he has served as governor of Arkansas have been exceptionally busy. His term as chairman of the National Governors Association finished up in August 2006, shortly after the expiration of his two-year term as chairman of the prestigious Education Commission of the States. In addition to these two leadership positions, he has served as president of the Council of State Governments, state co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, and chairman of the Southern Governors' Association, the Southern Regional Education Board, the Southern Growth Policies Board, the Southern Technology Council, the Southern International Trade Council, and the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact.
Mike Huckabee has been a leader in improving health care for Arkansans. He created the ARKids First program, a nationally recognized initiative that provides health insurance to tens of thousands of children who previously had no access to health insurance. He also led a ballot initiative in 2000 that devotes all of the state's tobacco settlement money to improving the health of Arkansans. Arkansas is one of the few states spending all of its tobacco funds in this way. Governor Huckabee created the Healthy Arkansas initiative to encourage Arkansans to stop smoking, exercise more and eat healthier. He now has expanded that effort to the Healthy America program, which is his NGA chairman's initiative. As a direct result of his leadership, for the first time Arkansas state employees are taking health risk assessments, receiving individualized health information, and receive discounts for health insurance premiums if they commit to lifestyle of healthy behavior. Governor Huckabee has worked with private businesses to assist them in creating similar wellness programs.
In the spring of 2006, Governor Huckabee convened the Arkansas Legislature into extraordinary session to address several education and health related issues. During that session, he introduced his Indoor Clean Air Act and oversaw passage of the bill, resulting in banning of smoking in almost all workplaces throughout Arkansas.
Governor Huckabee's efforts to improve his own health have received national attention. Diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2003, he lost 110 pounds. By March of 2006, he had completed the Little Rock Marathon in back-to-back years and managed to sandwich competing in the Marine Corps Marathon in-between. Largely because of these accomplishments, The Road Runners Club of America named him its Southern Region Runner of the Year, and also during 2005 he received designation as a USA Track & Fields National Athlete of the Week. Governor Mike Huckabee's fourth book, "Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork", was released by Time Warner Book Group in May of 2005 and continues to receive favorable reviews across the country. He has traveled widely since the release of the book to speak on the need for Americans to change their lifestyles, touting his "12 stop" program as a no-nonsense approach to manage one's health by implementing lifestyle change rather than just using simple diet and exercise plans.
Largely through his efforts, Arkansas has become nationally recognized as having crafted one of the nation's best school accountability programs. Governor Huckabee pushed through reforms in Arkansas that have significantly increased the number of charter schools and established new approaches to workforce education. Other accomplishments include creation of an automobile license renewal system which has become the model for states across the nation. He directed the creation of other technology based advancements which have made Arkansas a leader among the states. In fact, Brown University rated Arkansas number one in the nation for on-line services.
Governor Huckabee is a leader in promoting family values:
- Issued the Family Protection Policy Directive to Arkansas state agencies
- Signed legislation outlawing same-sex marriage in Arkansas.
- Signed the Fetal Protection Act
- Issued an executive order to state agencies recurring compliance with Charitable Choice, allowing faith-based providers access to government funds
- Led the effort to pass the nation's third Covenant Marriage law
- Led the effort to pass "A Woman's Right to Know" legislation for women seeking abortion
- Signed into law legislation requiring parental consent for abortion
- Signed into law legislation requiring abortion providers to notify a prospective patient that the unborn baby may feel pain
Governor Huckabee is a leader in promoting good government:
- Doubled the child care tax credit and eliminated the marriage penalty from the tax code
- Eliminated the capital gains tax on the sale of a home
- Indexed the state income tax to inflation to keep people from being pushed into higher tax brackets
- Simplified the car tag renewal process
- Signed into law legislation creating the first broad-based tax cut in Arkansas history
- Increased penalties for church arson.
- Implemented criminal background checks for teachers
Governor Huckabee is a leader in education:
- Protected the right of parents to home school their children
- Initiated SmartStart, SmartStep, and Next Step education programs which resulted in verifiable gains in academic achievement from the first year of implementation.
- Passed legislation to increase education assessment and school accountability
- Signed into law legislation vastly improving an existing charter school law, resulting in the creation of Arkansas' first ever charter schools
- Worked to grant school administrators more flexibility in firing bad teachers
Governor Huckabee is leader in protecting our Second Amendment rights:
- Became the first governor in the nation to have a concealed handgun license
- Signed into law legislation removing restrictions on concealed handgun permit holders
- Signed into law legislation blocking frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers
- Signed into law legislation allowing former law enforcement officers to carry concealed handguns
Governor Huckabee is a nationally acclaimed writer:
- "Character Is The Issue" 1997
- "Kids Who Kill" 1998
- "Living Beyond Your Lifetime" 2000
- "Quit Digging Your Grave With A Knife And Fork" 2005
Governor Huckabee is nationally recognized for his many leadership accomplishments:
- Named the director of a new public policy center at Ouachita Baptist University's Mike Huckabee School of Education. Sept. 28, 2005.
- Received the League of United Latin American Citizens Leadership Award. June 29, 2005
- Received the Carl Garner-Al Pollard Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Foundation. April 28, 2005
- Named Southern Region Runner of the Year by the Road Runners Club of America in 2005. March 17, 2005
- Finished the Little Rock Marathon in four hours, 38 minutes and 59 seconds. March 6, 2005
- Named honorary chairman of America's Walk for Diabetes. 2005.
- Named to American Cancer Society's Legends Circle. 2005
- Named Communicator of the Year by the International Association of Business Communicators Arkansas Chapter, 2004.
- Received Leadership in Fitness Award from Arkansas Council on Physical Fitness. 2003.
- Named Arkansan of the Year Award by the Arkansas Broadcasters Association in August 2002.
- Received Amigo Award from the League of United Latin American Citizens. 2002.
- Received the Pioneer Award the Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System at the E-Gov 2002 Exposition in Washington, D.C. June 2002
- Received Meritorious Service Award from the Selective Service System. June 2, 2002.
- Inducted in the American Legion Boys State of Arkansas Hall of Fame. June 8, 2001
- Inducted in the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2000
- Received Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Alumni Award. 2000.
- American Sportfishing Association Man of the Year. 1997
- Received honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Ouachita Baptist University. May 17, 1997.
- Received honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from John Brown University. April 13, 1994.
- Named Paul Harris Follow of Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.